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To predict the future, the brain uses two clocks (berkeley.edu)
153 points by ClarendonDrive 24 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 16 comments



Anyone who has done a "reaction based sport" at a moderate to high level can feel this I think. Whether it's driving quickly, or skiing a mogul line at pace, you seem not only to exist in the moment, but in two moments. One seconds ahead of where you are now and one coordinating your current actions.


Music, performance, too.


Also see publications by Richard Ivry lab on time perception: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?cmd=search&term=Ivry+RB%...


The article is about "anticipation", which is not exactly "future predicting". I'm disappointed, but science does not have a mechanistic explanation for future-seeing, and therefore has no respect for those who have an ability to "predict" very far beyond the predictable future - [2], perhaps.

One of my passengers once said something about a "psychic" having told [him/her] something-or-other. I huffed, delivered a short reply about humans' ability to see the future, then resumed my standard talk. If I was good at future-seeing, I would have tried to avoid what was to come to pass on account of that passenger.

About three years ago I had the sense, "this 'project' is going to take about 3 years..." I'd say I was approximately correct, but the whole time I've been thinking it'd be finished with the next step.

It's said that Abraham Lincoln was greatly interested in the predictive power of dreams. He may [0] (or may not [1]) have foreseen his own death in a dream. He was bummed out, but wasn't able to adequately interpret his dream so as to avert his own assassination.

[0] https://rogerjnorton.com/Lincoln46.html [1] https://www.history.com/news/did-abraham-lincoln-predict-his... (autoplay video)

[2] "Jules Verne: The Sci-Fi Author Who Predicted the Future" - https://thehustle.co/jules-verne-the-sci-fi-author-who-predi... - advice at the end, "How you can see the future", is quite solid.

Discussion questions:

1. Have you ever had a dream that was predictive of the future?

2. Have you ever "foreseen" what came to pass? Or maybe you didn't like what was to come, decided that you wanted something else, and thereby deliberately changed your own future?

3. Everyone uses 'predicting' all the time for evaluating which path to take. Some people are better at this than others (e.g. Jeff Bezos 'foresaw' the transformative power of the internet).

When did you pick correctly, even if it was a long shot? What about times that you picked incorrectly, maybe even though it was the 'safe' choice? Have you had a gut feeling that the long shot was actually a better bet, but you ignored your gut feeling?


Most dreams that predict the future do so in symbolic form. It is relatively rare for dreams to be akin to a film clip of the event.

Some people think in pictures. My oldest son is one such person. I sometimes have what might be termed "visions". I have come to believe these are not psychic events, but are brief episodes of my brain thinking in pictures -- like my son does normally and like we all do while dreaming.

I was raised with really scary, terrifying ideas that such "visions" were inescapable Destiny and I spent years fighting against a mental model of Greek Tragedy style fate. I was raised with the idea that seeing the future in a dream meant it would happen and you could not stop it.

Dreams that I believed predicted the future haunted me like my own personal Hound of Tindalos. I spent years waking in a cold sweat, desperate to figure out how to avoid the future I saw before me.

The two things I most frequently foresaw in my youth never came to pass and they no longer can come to pass. I am no longer terrified of my dreams and "visions". I see them as prediction in the vein of how we crunch data to do weather prediction on TV.

Except it predicts my future. Since it is my life, I can change that future by making different choices informed by the prediction that "The path you are on currently leads to X."

A picture is worth a thousand words. A flash of imagery is an information dense means for the mind to spit out an inference based on "big data." I see it as the mind's own charts and graphs, so to speak. It's now useful information for me, instead of something that leaves me paralyzed with fear. It's now "Ah, so my mind spit out this information rich thought. I wonder what I was trying to tell myself."

As for "gut" instinct, I think there is a book called "Blink" that talks about how the mind comes to first impressions and that they are frequently more reliable than things we actively thought through. You might also want to look up "amygdala hijack."

In some circumstances, we react faster than we can consciously process what we are seeing. Our body takes action before our mind spits out the reason. A classic case is jumping in a river, not realizing why, then seeing the child you are there to save. That's an amygdala hijack.


> Most dreams that predict the future do so in symbolic form

That's because symbolic form can be interpeted in many ways, so it's easy post-factum to interpet them in a way that predicts the future :)


My actual point was that symbolic dreams of that sort probably are not "psychic" phenomenon. The cases where people dream about what is coming in vivid and realistic terms are arguably psychic events where somehow someone has literally seen the future before it happened. The symbolic dreams are likely predictions of the sort I described above: The mind crunching data and spitting out graphics that serve as an information dense summary of the mind's conclusions.

They are a form of thinking, not some kind of magic voodoo whatever. And they constitute the vast majority of reported predictive dreams.


I don't think there are any psychic events. And I don't think we know what symbolic dreams are, so why make assumptions :)


As detailed above, it's something I've studied. So I don't think I'm making assumptions. I think I'm making inferences based on the best research and data that I'm personally aware of.

Among other things, I was Director of Community Life for The TAG Project for a time. This is an organization that serves the educational, social and emotional needs of the gifted community. We talked a lot about how brains worked, among other things.

I also founded and ran an email list for a time called Wired For Science. It was designed to serve the needs of my oldest son and members were generally a parent and child or a parent and both of their children or two parents and their child. It was a family discussion group for people living with various neurological issues, such as ASD and OCD.

We posted articles about neurological research and discussed what it means in human terms to actually live with stuff and talked about what the research could tell us about how to more effectively cope with such issues.

You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. So I guess this is where we agree to disagree and I go off and do other things.


I think your post is getting a negative reaction because it sounds like you're talking about "seeing into the future" in a way that sounds supernatural or paranormal, which has been tested numerous times and found to not exist.

Did you mean to refer to "seeing into the future" in terms of extrapolation, the way a futurist might extrapolate current technology trends to make predictions or Lincoln may have extrapolated from political unrest and division to an assassination attempt? It doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility that when we dream, the extrapolating and predicting that happens in our subconscious mind all the time might bubble to the surface.


Or maybe what you're talking about is more a confirmation [1] and hindsight [2] bias.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindsight_bias


Those who start stock trading, or gambling, quickly learn (the hard way) to differentiate between the brain's delusion of prediction, and the cold hard truth of statistics, randomness, and probability.

But if one is indeed right about their intuitions/senses/dreams containing some truth beyond the computable bayesian prior probability, they would definitely stand to make quite a sum on the stock market.

What particularly bothers me is that, say that the brain had somehow managed to develop a science-defying future-prediction ability, why on earth would it not develop and explicitly use that ability rather than subtly injecting vague clues in dreams, or say raising vague feelings in one direction or other? In a darwinian context, wasting such effort and valuable computation is rather atypical.

And if it did indeed somehow inject this future-prediction in its subconscious estimates for likelihoods, we would be seeing humans doing things which defy the accepted laws of knowable randomness, like predicting coin outcomes with better than 50% probability (similar, longer-timespan experiments could trivially be devised ).


> science does not have a mechanistic explanation for future-seeing

Sure it does. Medical science deals with delusional people all the time.


Something about this message is setting off the same sorts of woo alarm bells that astrology, soothsaying, divination, witchcraft, and past life regression do. (I've been seeing a lot of honest-to-god sincere defense of this stuff in tech circles lately.)

Are you arguing that some people have some kind of mystical prophetic ability that manifests in gut feelings and dreams?


You mention Jules Verne, but the article you linked to actually explains he wasn't "future-seeing", and gives a rational and plausible explanation for what he was doing, an explanation consistent with current scientific understanding: he read a lot, surrounded himself with people who "knew their shit" (sic) and payed attention.

None of this detracts from the literary genius of Verne, of course :)


Anticipation is future predicting




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